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Where have all the true sports fans gone?

This morning I was listening to a local radio show host discuss the discrepancies among professional sports teams and the negative impact it is having on the leagues.  Over the past 25 years of my life I have witnessed a transformation of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL going from “American pastimes” to big business.

Why is it that an Arizona Diamondbacks game has as many Cubs fans as it does home team fans?  Or why is it that Lebron James can wear a NY Yankees hat to a Cleveland Indians game and feel it is acceptable?  I believe that it is attributed to a new breed of sports fans (for lack of a better term) and foresee some potentially huge fallbacks to this.

As a child I can remember trading baseball cards, playing football in the streets, sitting down and watching entire baseball games, going to Seattle Mariner games, and immersing myself into my local hometown teams.  That was a different day.

Today, young men wear a jersey because they like the color, like individual players because they are dating Jessica Simpson or were seen on TMZ, enjoy teams because their marketing is strong and is forced down their throats.  The differentiator that I am looking for here is “nostalgia”.  I have that, because of childhood experiences, my father’s generation even more so, but the newer generations, not so much.

I am a huge advocate for an integrated America, taking people from all walks of life, different countries, different cultures, and different experiences, but when the Pittsburgh Pirates are 41-73, the residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will NOT continue to go see the games unless they were of my or previous generations.  The nostalgia is not there.  They want to see a winning team, period.  Or, they are merely there for the experience.

Somewhere along the line, professional organizations began to emphasize the importance of having a custom new stadium, with breweries, cushy seats, personal service, Diamond Club seating, HD display screens, and multiple Starbucks.  Why?  Because the people they are attempting to draw are no longer their to see their team, they are there to simply be entertained.

Lets look at this from another angle; my girlfriend is a huge theater buff (or is it theatre, whatever), and would watch a performance from a metal bleacher in a back alley of a rural town if it was made up of her favorite performers, whereas she knows damn well she would not get me into a theater performance unless their was plenty of beer, food and a wireless signal.

The sad thing with this, particularly being an avid sports fan, is that I can predict a couple of bad things happening to professional sports here in America.  First, I grew up in a time where all 3 of the major sports leagues, MLB, NFL, and NBA have grown in number of teams.  This will change.  Lets say by 2025, I would be willing to bet that atleast 4 teams from each league (the NFL may be the safest for now), will fall off and the leagues will not be able to replace them.  For example, Kansas City Royals, Pitsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Bobcats, all of which could fall victim to the eventual trimming of the leagues.

Second, ugh, I hate to even imagine this, but I foresee our beloved athletes boasting advertising, akin to NASCAR race cars, .  Maybe as individuals or as teams, but it is coming…coming to the plate now, brought to you exclusively by Burger King, where you can have it your way, Ichiro “the Whopper Junior” Suzuki!

And finally, as television has commercials, internet services have interstitials and movies have previews, professional sports will become tainted with non-sports related promotions and performances during the 7th inning stretch, beginnings of the game or halftime (see Super Bowl).

Yes, sports have gradually become extremely commercial, looking to sell, sell, and sell, and are succeeding admirably.  The purity and raw competitiveness of yesteryear has left us behind and we have to face the reality of what is to come.  But I, and surely a small percentage of sports fanatics across the country will continue to root for their home team for reasons that todays generation can never understand, while they will boast about Tony Romo, Kobe Bryant, Barry Bonds, and all the players I love to hate.

December 31, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Athletes as NASCAR cars? It already started. Remember when the Executioner had the Golden Palace (fake) tattoo on his back when he fought Tito Trinidad.

    Comment by Straight Cash | December 31, 2008 | Reply


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